It’s called a Marquesita and you should try it if you get the chance.
My Marquesita. You can see the cheese and crumbs on the floor. I ate like a pig. Image: Author
Step 2 in my new life as a digital nomad is Mexico. Specifically, Playa del Carmen. After three weeks in Lisbon, it’s a radical change. I really liked Lisbon, but now I feel like I’m finally where I’m supposed to be. I feel at ease when it’s hot outside and the water is never far away.
After a good morning’s work, I felt like taking a walk. I like to walk just for the sake of walking. I can put one foot in front of the other for hours at a time, going as I please. But I also like to have some kind of goal.
This afternoon, I was on a quest for food. I roamed the streets looking for the street vendors of Nutella mixed with cheese.
The spirit of Marquesitas is in the carts of street vendors
Marquesitas are not sold in fixed points. That’s what made my quest exciting.
This treat is sold by street vendors. I had found information online. Most often, they are located between 15th and 20th avenue, crossing 8th and 10th street. That’s about right above the center. It’s easy to find your way in Playa del Carmen. It is a straight city, made up of grid streets. There are no turns other than 90 degrees.
At 3 pm, I was outside in the heat, rocking my shorts and t-shirts, happily sweating. I was in a quest for food. There’s almost nothing that makes me happier — especially when it’s food that I’ve never tasted before. Or, even more interesting, some food I never thought to try.
That was the case with Marquesitas.
Marquesitas are crispy rolled pancakes filled with Nutella and Edam cheese. This is the most common version, along with the cajeta version, which is a kind of caramel. But they also exist filled with chocolate or jam. They have about the consistency of a waffle. But drier, and rolled.
I would never have thought of associating Nutella with cheese. I was extremely intrigued by the mixture. Especially since it’s a popular dessert here, mainly eaten in the evening, while walking around town. I had to try one.
I walked for miles looking for these street vendors, without seeing any. But I didn’t want to give up. I knew they were around, and I was determined to find them.
Suddenly, as I crossed two streets, I saw one. It was free of people, and the word “Marquesitas” was displayed in bold, colored letters. I was thrilled.
“¡Holà! Una Marquesita con Nutella y queso, por favor”
The man put some dough between two pans placed on a fire and turned them over several times. I watched his movements with attention. I didn’t miss a crumb of the preparation. The sun was shining on my back, while the heat from the pans warmed my face.
After a few seconds, he opened the jar of Nutella and spread a large spoonful of hazelnut pasta over the pancake. Then he grated some Edam, a lot in fact, and sprinkled it on the Marquise. I was surprised by the quantity. All the more so when, after rolling it, he put some on top, and even stuffed the end of the roll with it.
He put it in a cone, with a towel, and went around his stand to hand it to me.
I gave him 40 pesos, less than 2 dollars, thanked him, and went to sit in the adjoining park to try this stuffed, sweet, greasy thing that excited me so much.
I took out my GoPro to record that moment. The recording’s going to be fun to watch: the moment I bit into the hot pancake, it crumbled and I covered my forearm, my shorts, and my shoes with shavings of grated cheese. You can see the result on the floor in the photo above.
After laughing at myself, the taste spread in my mouth. The two flavors blended perfectly. There was the sweet, burning taste of Nutella, with the comforting, salty kick of the cheese. Both melted and mixed in my mouth, the salt of the cheese making the sugar in the chocolate soar. The crispness of the pancake added a bit of dynamism to the whole. It was terribly good.
My only comment would be that I would have liked to taste a little more the Nutella, which was perhaps a little concealed by the amount of cheese. I plan to try some more, from other vendors, just to see how different it tastes. Maybe they’ll put more Nutella on it?
To conclude this profoundly gastronomic experience
It was simple. It was cheap. It was weird.
But it was raw happiness, a raw taste of life. Food makes me so happy. I could literally travel the world merely to try as many different dishes as I can.
If you ever get the chance to try Marquesitas — you’re more likely to find them in Yùcatan since it’s a specialty here — don’t think twice about it. Nobody worries about calories, sugar, fat. Just order one.
Whether you like it or not, you have to know what it is. To me, it was like a warm cloud of happiness melting in my mouth.